If you were waiting for a new Renaissance of software development and super-networked self-starting educational bootstrapping to spread across the Third World as a result of the OLPC program... well, now could be a good time to find yourself some beer, and then start crying into it.
Parts of what I wrote in One Laptop Per Me are still perfectly applicable. The other parts, in which I just sort of assumed that the OLPC people wouldn't turn the whole deal into one giant WTF, now seem less well-chosen.
If, on the other hand, you're a cheap-tech vulture who just wants to suck up an OLPC laptop or three for fifty bucks each, the apparent utter debacle that the OLPC program seems doomed to become can only mean a buggerload of shiny white-and-green mini-laptops will be swamping eBay any time now.
(No, they never did turn out to make different models for poor kids and rich Westerners. So if you buy an eBay OLPC that was stolen by the random dude chosen to take a truckload of laptops to some not-even-served-by-the-Post-Office outpost in Peru, nobody will be able to tell that your laptop was originally meant to be given to a poor little kid. You may still feel guilty about buying it, and I hope you do, but if all this is true, then it seems depressingly clear that no force on earth ever actually would have gotten that computer into the hands of its intended recipient. Some bastard's going to buy it on eBay. Might as well be you, I suppose.)
The above-linked essay by Ivan Krstic is just one ex-OLPC-employee ranting, so everything in it may be nonsense.
But unless the core claim in that essay - that OLPC is basically completely without a deployment department, so there's nobody to make sure the half-million laptops they've sent out actually get where they're meant to go and can be made to work when they get there - is fundamentally false, then pretty much the whole OLPC project is, as of now, dead as a stone.
(Oh, and you know that special security system that's meant to disable stolen XO-1s? it turns out that Ivan Krstic was the main architect for that system, yet does not mention it in his essay. Which suggests that he's not hopeful that it'll do anything in particular to actually prevent theft.)
And this isn't even mentioning the earlier problem, that the constructionist philosophy that the whole OLPC project is built around has never actually been shown to work on any significant scale. Constructionism sounds as if it ought to work, but nobody's done it yet.
(There's also some closed-source versus Free Software folderol, which in this case does have a bit more bite than usual, if only because the XO-1 laptop has a "View Source" button that's supposed to show you the source code for pretty much anything you're looking at. This makes the concept of a Windows XP XO-1 particularly poignant, but I agree with Krstic that this is hardly the central problem, particularly seeing as the XO-1's "Sugar" GUI is what the View Source button is meant to affect, and Sugar can unquestionably be made to run on Windows, somewhat like unto Windows 95 on DOS.)
Krstic goes on to describe OLPC as an impending "historical fuckup unparalleled in scale", which is a great exaggeration. If OLPC turns out to be an utter and unmitigated failure then I suppose it might perhaps just make it into the Top Twenty of information technology fuckups (here, from just the other day...), but I suspect it won't even be in the top couple of hundred of historical business debacles, let alone certain military fuckups I could name.
And all this doesn't, of course, mean that the computers-for-the-poor idea is forever doomed. There's a whole new wave of low-cost mini-laptops, headed by the Asus Eee PC, which was pretty much kicked off by the OLPC XO-1. I think it's quite likely that these new systems will leak out into the Third World in a year or three, when things like the original seven-inch Eee start to become bargain-basement items.
It is amazing what kids - even very young kids - can do with computers, whether or not those computers arrive covered with spiffy unproven constructivist gift-wrap. And wireless-enabled solid-state low-power-consumption systems suitable for use out in the boondocks will become cheaper and cheaper as the years go by.
And heck, OLPC isn't targeting only poorer nations; there's an independent OLPC office here in Australia, for instance.
But you can't expect even the most enterprising of schoolchildren to pull laptop charging stations out of their fundaments, figure out programming from first principles all by themselves, or go and catch the bad man who drove all of their laptops over the border and swapped 'em for a truckload of dope and vodka.
Can it really be true that OLPC just ignored these issues?!
(Slashdot discussion of the essay here. Much Free/Non-Free Software heat, not much light. Expect a gun-control thread to start about half-way down the page.)